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The Game of Thrones leader board: Episode 1 update

The biggest show on the planet is gearing up for its final season and never has a bladed chair been quite so hotly – or rather coldly – contested. There are plenty of men fighting for the top spot, but Westeros is really a woman’s world and we’re rooting for someone with ovaries to emerge victorious. So, who are the female fighters and which of them stand the best chance of surviving – and succeeding the throne? ANNABEL BROG and MATT DUNCAN rate the remaining survivors, week by week, throughout Season 8. Warning: There be dragons and spoilers ahead…

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Illustration by Matt Duncan

Daenerys Targaryen

Dany still looks the most likely victor, claiming the kingdom alongside her nephew-lover Jon Snow (now revealed as the true-born Targaryen heir) and advisor Tyrion Lannister. Historically, three sibling dragon-riders conquered Westeros, and given Tyrion’s parentage has been questioned (albeit by his foul, bigoted father), there may be some genetic bombshells yet to drop. Plus, it creates a Targaryen/Stark/Lannister alliance that could be interesting. The only indication Dany may yet meet a grisly end is her icy vision in the House of the Undying (Season 2) and the showrunners’ predilection for throwing curveballs.

Episode 1 update: The combination of resting bitch-face exchanges with Sansa and Jon’s dented loyalty makes Dany’s future look a little less rosy.

Current chances of claiming the throne: 4/5

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Cersei Lannister

We’d love her to win, if only so we can gorge ourselves on the series spin-off. But Cersei’s demise was foretold alongside the deaths of her children when she was still a little girl visiting fortune tellers at fairs. Plus, there must be some justice in the Westeros world, surely. We predict her faithful, love-sick twin Jaime adding Queen Slayer to his aliases, doing something noble while protecting Brienne of Tarth from Cersei’s malice.

Episode 1 update: Should we let Cersei share the claim with her rumored baby? Yes, let’s – just to stir things up.

Current chances of claiming the throne: 3/5

Illustration by Matt Duncan
Illustration by Matt Duncan

Sansa Stark

In the early seasons, Sansa was a vain, self-serving pawn. But pawns become queens if they last the distance, and Sansa has survived both Lannisters and Boltons, so she’s earned it. Along the blood-spattered way she has learned nobility from Ned, brutality from Ramsay, scheming from Littlefinger and never to trust anyone from Cersei. Plus, she is still married to Tyrion, which may yet lead to something complex, though what that may be is anyone’s guess.

Episode 1 update: No change here. She’s still the smartest player in the game.

Current chances of claiming the throne: 4/5

Arya Stark

Now this would be fun. Unlikely – she just wants to kill, with the pointy end – but fun. Imagine a Westeros where Arya hooks up with Gendry – who, rather than Robert Baratheon’s bastard, is likely the legitimate son of Robert and Cersei*, given he is mysteriously still alive and around. Then a Stark/Lannister/Baratheon clan would be in charge. We’d tune in to watch that spin-off, too.

Episode 1 update: The throne is no more likely, but a kiss with Gendry is looking distinctly possible.

Current chances of claiming the throne: 2/5

*Cersei’s firstborn child – and the only one of her children actually fathered by her lawful husband Robert – had brown hair and apparently died. And Gendry remembers his mother having long blond hair.

Illustration by Matt Duncan
Illustration by Matt Duncan

Brienne of Tarth

We can’t see her wanting to be Queen of Westeros. It’s far more likely that she will have some altercation with Jaime that eventually causes him to realize Cersei needs a sword in her back. He’ll die in the process of ridding Westeros of his tyrannical sister, leaving Brienne free to run off with Tormund Giantsbane and perhaps become queen of the far-far North instead.

Episode 1 update: She barely made a mark in the first episode, but we predict that big things are in store for her soon.

Current chances of claiming the throne: 3/5

Catelyn Stark

Lady Stoneheart is currently as dead as her firstborn Robb. But the TV series has finally caught up with George R. R. Martin’s books in terms of revealing the Lord of Light’s followers’ predilection for raising the dead. Melisandre still has a part to play, and somehow we feel that might involve Catelyn. She’s not going to back Jon (all those years of hate won’t dissolve just because Jon is not Ned’s illegitimate son after all). We see her going with Arya. Maybe Sansa. But not her own claim.

Episode 1 update: Still dead.

Current chances of claiming the throne: 0/5

Illustration by Matt Duncan